Asturias welcomes its visitors by surrounding them with meadows, mountains and the sea. Green and blue. And, for many, it is the ideal destination if what they want is to get in direct contact with nature or disconnect in its most rural environment. However, Asturias has another face, the one that moved its economy during the last century, and in which everything is stained black: the coal industry.
Asturias’ mining past has marked its history, its development, its society and even its landscape. And, for a long time, it has also become one of the most unique and striking tourist attractions in the Principality. Industrial Asturias, in which coal and the steel industry played a fundamental role, has left its territory plagued by old mines that tell us of many decades of hard work underground. Quite a feat that today we can know, and recognize, thanks to a good number of museums located in old exploitation plants that are open to the most curious visitors. If you think you consider yourself one of them, take note because here you have seven essential places to delve into the Asturian mining past.
Coal and steel, the industrial engine of Asturias
You don’t have to look far to find clear traces of how coal and the steel industry moved the economic engine of Asturias in the not too distant past. And not only in its landscape, where industrial architecture dots a large part of its territory, but also thanks to museums and centers dedicated to rescuing and remembering the work of so many people who placed Asturian mining at the top. So, if you want to delve into what has been one of the most powerful sectors of the Asturian economy, we recommend seven essential visits with which you can discover first-hand the industrial heritage of Asturias.
- Museum of Mining and Industry of Asturias – MUMI, in San Martín del Rey Aurelio
The Museum of Mining and Industry of Asturias, better known as MUMI, could be an excellent start on this route as it was the first cultural space dedicated to the industrial heritage of Asturias. It was built on the old dump of the historic San Vicente well and offers a complete sample of everything that mining involved technically and socially. Through its “mine-image”, and in a route of almost a kilometer 600 meters below the surface, all aspects of a real mine are recreated, so that we can discover all its secrets equipped as authentic miners.
- “Valle de Samuño” Mining Ecomuseum, in Langreo
The “Valle de Samuño” Mining Ecomuseum It goes a long way and offers an interesting and full visit from start to finish. A train ride takes us for a couple of kilometers following the river Samuño to introduce us to an old gallery and the Plaza del Pozo San Luis. Later, a visit to the engine room will allow us to see a large compressor, which generated the air necessary for the pneumatic drive of the interior tools, and the visit is completed knowing the plumbing, the medicine cabinet, the bathhouse or even the ‘chigre’, a traditional cider house.
- Museum of the Steel Industry of Asturias, in Langreo
Also in Langreo we find the Iron and Steel Museum, the MUSIC, located in an impressive cooling tower of the old steel factory of the company Duro Felguera. It is without a doubt one of the most original cultural spaces in Asturias, and the fact is that the 45-meter-high tower does not go unnoticed and in itself is quite a claim. The museum is divided into three floors: on the ground floor, we have the audiovisual room and we will learn about the development of the integral iron and steel process, on the first floor different objects, models and panels related to the Asturian iron and steel industry of the 19th and 19th centuries are displayed. XX, and on the lower floor we find the Bayer Room, dedicated to the pharmaceutical production of acetylsalicylic acid that the German company established in a factory in the council of Langreo.
- Bustiello Mining Town Interpretation Center, in Mieres
As you surely know, large mines have often given rise to settlements where their workers lived, giving rise to mining towns. The Bustiello Mining Town Interpretation Center, in Mieres, is an excellent example thanks to its artistic quality and its sociological relevance. It was built between 1890 and 1925 by the Spanish Coal Society and in it, in addition to the residences for engineers and workers, we find a chapel, a casino, a school, a sanatorium and an interpretation center that offers guided tours.
- Well Sotón, in San Martín del Rey Aurelio
In the heart of the Nalón mining basin is located the Soton Well. Strong emotions await us here, as we have three possibilities for visiting: two underground tours and another through the surface facilities. Underground, one of the options offers us an itinerary between the 8th and 10th floors of the mine, between 338 and 556 meters deep. It is accessed through the same cages through which, until December 2014, thousands of workers descended during a century of productive history. The most demanding visit covers about 5 km and lasts about 4 hours, although there is an alternative that lasts half as long. On the surface, another route takes us through the offices and the engine room. While a Center of Experiences and Memory of Mining shows us in a didactic way material recovered from wells already closed.
- Arnao Mine Museum, in Castrillón
The Arnao Mine has the peculiarity of being located under the sea. After many technical efforts, the Bay of Biscay ended up winning the battle and partially flooded it, for which its activity ceased definitively in 1915. It boasts of having the oldest vertical well in Asturias and being the oldest mineral coal exploitation in the Iberian Peninsula. . Today, thanks to Arnao Mine Museumwe can get to know its tower, which, clad in wood and zinc, is considered an Asset of Cultural Interest, while we walk through its exhibition space and get to know its brick-vaulted galleries.
- Asturias Railway Museum, in Gijón
And, as no mining industry is possible without the collaboration of the railway, we finished this route in Gijón, in the Asturias Railway Museum. It is located in what was the old Compañía del Norte station and has an exceptional collection of rolling stock and traction. The exhibition seeks to explain the importance of the railway in Asturias, its involvement with the development of the territory and of an entire society. And to whose use, of course, industrial exploitation is closely linked. It has 16 steam locomotives and some of them are in perfect working order, as can be seen during the celebration of the Jornadas del Vapor.